Finally, some good news about paying for college: Textbooks are getting cheaper.
Barnes & Noble Monday announced it will include Stony Brook University in a pilot program to rent textbooks to college students. The retailer, which has more than 600 campus bookstores nationwide, has tried the rentals at three stores out of state and is now expanding to another 25.
That's good news for Navneet Singh, 22, who is in his second year of a master's of business administration degree at Stony Brook - and is already girding up for four years of medical school, where texts are even more bulky and costly.
Singh estimates he has spent $600 to $1,000 a year on texts, and only recaptures a small part by selling the books back to the store.
"This sounds like a great program," said Singh. "You want to keep some texts, but you don't need 80 to 90 percent of them when the course is over."
Singh received an e-mail from a professor last week saying an immunology text, which costs $100 new, will rent for $42.50 for the semester.
Barnes & Noble joins Follets, another national chain, as well as Internet companies such as bookrenter.com and eCampus.com in offering rented books. Barnes & Noble runs bookstores at many Long Island campuses, including Adelphi, Hofstra, Long Island University's C.W. Post campus, Farmingdale State College and Nassau Community College.
Those stores will not be part of this program, but "we're going to be rolling out many more in the future," said company spokeswoman Karen Discala. "We had a pilot to see what kind of reaction we got, and the reaction has been overwhelming."
The National Association of College Stores reports undergraduates spend about $667 per year on required course materials, according to The Associated Press.
Even the rental programs might soon seem dated. At Stony Brook, Singh said he recently downloaded an electronic textbook for about $50. Even better, students often can save money by buying only the chapters they need in an electronic textbook.
"Textbook publishers might not like the changes," Singh said, "but the reality is that we live in a time when people aren't going to pay for a new book."